172 of 200 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2014
I bought this book after hearing Walter Kirn interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air." I was looking forward to an in-depth look at someone with a serious personality disorder and worldview deeply out of step with reality. I expected this to be about the subject's issues; I did not expect the author's neuroses and self-absorption completely overshadow the murderer. I am not at all surprised Walter Kirn was taken in by "Clark Rockefeller", as Mr. Kirn's exceptional cluelessness seems to beg to be taken advantage of. My goodness, he graduated from Princeton but my goodness, he did not fit in, but in case you forget, he graduated from Princeton and my goodness, has rubbed shoulders with ALL SORTS OF WEALTHY PEOPLE. Golly gee whiz! It's no wonder he falls for the extremely unlikely circumstances in his VERY FIRST CONVERSATION with "Clark Rockefeller"-- but not surprising to this reader. And it just gets worse from there. (But oh, the author mentions AGAIN he graduated from Princeton.)
The first chapter, of the bringing of a seriously disabled dog via pick-up truck 2000 miles from Montana to New York City, was excruciating for this reader: did it never occur to him that a dog with a spinal injury might have issues with urination and defecation? And did it never occur to him that long-distance driving with such an animal might be challenging? But thankfully, his mother comes to his rescue and....
Even if you really, really really think there's more in this than you can get out of a Wikipedia article, rest assured, you'll find plenty of copies remaindered, at used book sales, and in the free bin at your local library. I feel terribly misled by NPR's interview, and I'm sorry I spent the money on a hardback copy of this book.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2014
I was so looking forward to reading this story. I mean, what an absolutely fascinating tale. How did this man get away with deluding everyone for so long? Why did he start? Why did he commit murder? Unfortunately, the author makes this book all about himself rather than his subject. If you want to read about Walter Kirn's troubles with drugs and wives and insecurity, you'll be happy enough. However, if you were hoping to read about the con artist/kidnapper/murderer you may have thought this book was about, you will be disappointed. I started getting disillusioned about halfway through, and was just plain irritated when I finished. Shame on this self-indulgent, narcissistic author.
81 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2014
Do you know what a humblebrag is? It's when someone boasts about his status or activities while pretending to be self-effacing. For example: 'I have nothing to wear to the Oscars!' or 'The worst thing about climbing Mt. Everest is that I can't get a phone signal.'
Walter Kirn has pulled off not a one-line humblebrag but a 250-page one. In relating his relationship with a con man--whom we first met in Mark Seal's superior 'The Man in the Rockefeller Suit'--he never lets us forget that he's a rural Midwestern boy who wound up in the Ivy League and later befriended some kind of alleged American aristocrat who took him into his world...only to be exposed as yet another fool (albeit one who marries a movie star's daughter and gets to hang out with George Clooney too, among other unabashedly out-of-place details) when the guy turned out to be a serial liar, thief, kidnapper and, ultimately, murderer. What I thought would provide a satisfying ending to the unfinished story in Seal's book (at the time, the murder trial had not taken place) turned out to be a self-indulgent step back as we skim the surface of 'Clark Rockefeller's' rise and fall. If this is what hanging out with rich snobs does to a person, I'll just stay home and watch Netflix. One star.
41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2014
Many reviews of Blood Will Out make this point, but it can't be stressed enough that this was one crazy story. I knew nothing of Clark Rockefeller before I read this, and if you are looking for a detailed history of the criminal case this probably isn't the book for you. But Kirn does an excellent job of describing what it was like to be taken in by a con man, and it was realy interesting to read about what it was like to see the onetime object of Kirn's admiration completely fall apart. As an aside, Kirn himself seems to have led quite an interesting life! I'd like to know more about him - hobnobbing with Kennedys, married to Lois Lane's daughter… I'm waiting for his biography!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2014
Some of the negative reviews of this book have commented that it is more about Kirn than Rockefeller. There is some truth to this. However, it would be more accurate to say that it was more about their relationship than Rockefeller. Also, what would be the point of writing a straightforward book about Rockefeller himself? This has already been done on multiple occasions and by Kirn's own acknowledgement, done quite well. The book was written specifically because of Kirn's unique interactions with him. I also think that Kirn himself comes off somewhat badly in the book in terms of what his "friendship" with Rockefeller says about Kirn himself and I have little doubt that but for Rockefeller's supposed last name, the "friendship" would never have lasted. Of course, in fairness, Kirn is hardly self-exculpatory about his actions--to the contrary, he is extremely hard on himself about it.
I would have given the book 5 stars just because I think that Kirn is such a wonderful writer and has such incredible powers of observation and analysis. There were a few things that bothered me however, which, cumulatively, added up to the loss of a star. First, as a few others have noted, the book is like a chronological pinball--it bounces all over the place. Forwards, backwards, forwards again, endlessly. To some extent, I see the reason for this, because it is in part about reflection on the past and it was never intended as a straight-ahead murder mystery. Still, I thought it was a bit excessive. Second, I didn't really like the way Kirn went into fairly detailed plot summaries of movie after movie after movie (with a few tv shows and books thrown in for good measure). I felt that the book dragged at these points. Finally, he has an odd capacity for simultaneous self-flagellation and self-congratulation. For every time he has one of this "how could I be so stupid as to be sucked in by this guy" moments, there is another where he reminds us (and possibly himself) of his gilded resume, including Princeton (seemingly 1000 mentions), Oxford (ditto), being a published novelist whose books have been made into movies, a magazine cover story writer, etc. etc. I understand the desire to point out this odd juxtaposition at least once but it seems that he did so repeatedly. Still, on balance, I certainly recommend the book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2014
There is seldom a book where I don't understand why it was written, but that is the case with this book. Perhaps, my less than generous praise for this book came because I had already read a much better book about the murderer/imposter Clark Rockefeller or perhaps it was because at times during the reading I could not tell who the bigger psychopath was - the author or Clark Rockefeller.
I felt like I was drowning in a river while reading this book. The author seemed to focus less on his subject matter - Clark Rockefeller - and more on his own problems as the book progressed. By the end of the book, the author had taken a mental enema of his disjunctive and erratic mind. Unfortunately, the readers had to endure it with him.
This book should never have been written and I wish at least one reader would not have read it. Two thumbs way down.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2014
Having read Mark Seal's fascinating 'The Man in the Rockefeller Suit,' published before Clark Rockefeller's trial and conviction for murder, I was eager to get hold of Walter Kirn's 'Blood Will Out,' since Kirn, who actually knew the pseudo-Rockefeller personally and attended the trial, was in a position to give new insight into the mysterious impersonator.
I was greatly disappointed. The book could have been titled "Walter Kirn's Messy Personal Life -- With a Few Comments on Clark Rockefeller." Kirn constantly departs from the story of Clark Rockefeller's serial impersonations to tell us far more than we want to know about his failed marriage, his struggles as a writer, etc. For every paragraph about the Clark Rockefeller story, Kirn gives us pages about his own life. He seems less interested in who Clark Rockefeller is and what he did than in how Walter Kirn was affected by the events. If you removed the interminable (and dull) autobiographical material and the incessant, intrusive self-reflection, the book would have only a third as many pages.
By now you will realize that the headline of this review refers at least as much to the author as to the purported subject, Clark Rockefeller. If Rockefeller parasitized the lives of those he encountered in order to create a phony life of his own, Kirn parasitizes the Clark Rockefeller story to obtrude his own uninteresting life upon the reading public.
Poetic justice, perhaps. But it doesn't make the book worth reading. One can only hope that Mark Spear will put out a new edition of 'The Man in the Rockefeller Suit', bringing the story up to date. That is, if Kirn has not already killed all interest in the subject.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2014
A triumph of style and substance, Blood Will Out proves a confident and relaxed, yet rigorous, narrative. Kirn's riveting account of a flukey, decades-long friendship with a dangerous sociopath is a high-wire act that somehow never feels like a performance, more of a fun and finely calibrated confessional. Kirn effortlessly ticks all the "Stranger Beside Me"-style True Crime boxes, then sails way beyond the genre into realms poetic, elegiac, contemplative, bittersweet and redemptive.
In Clark Rockefeller, Kirn presents a new kind of killer -- one who appropriates bits and pieces of American pop culture to adorn and justify his crimes, amuse himself and perplex others. One of his touchstones is "Strangers On a Train," and the fateful connection between Clark and Kirn finds the two men locked in a Hitchcockian danse macabre that lends this tale a chilling heft. Out of the vicissitudes of their tense, peculiar twosome, Kirn teases out insights into assimilation, anxiety, parenthood, class and identity that are by turns comedic, savage, melancholy, ironic - and always illuminating. Throughout, he digs deep, excavating private demons, obsessive doubts and painful self-revelation. Most powerfully, by the end one feels one has gotten to know both "Clark Rockefeller" and Walter Kirn - one more masterful illusion. And for all its dark humor, the book is in the end (to quote Clark) devastating.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2014
This fascinating book is deceptive - it is not really, as the title may indicate, the story of the liar Clark Rockefeller. Rather, it is the story of how Rockefeller turned the author, Walter Kirn, into a liar to himself. By successfully decoding what makes Kirn tick, Rockefeller convinced him to believe, or at least accept, the most outrageous deceptions. Were this told from a third-person perspective, it would be merely another 'Lifetime' sob story. Instead, Kirn catalogs his own vanities, insecurities, and deeply hidden desires, all with radical honesty. A lesser book, and less honest explorer of his own psyche, would hide attempt to mask these deep, albeit common, character flaws. Instead, the author names them for what they are and then shows exactly how Rockefeller turned them to his advantage.
Blood Will Out lays bare the essential fact that we all trade in the currency of casual lies, told and believed, in order to help us believe that we, our lives, and our friends, are more magical than they really are. It is a fundamental vulnerability in human nature, and Kirn exposes it in the only way possible - by exposing it in himself. This could be a brutal experience, were it not for the wit and precision of the writing, and the essential empathy of the narrative.
I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it. What troubles me most, is that I can't honestly say that I would see the liar in Rockefeller - but I'm pretty sure that Rockefeller would see the liar in me.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2014
This title popped up on a "Recommended for You" screen onmy Kindle Last time I'll listen to you,Amazon!
I rarely abandon a book before finishing it, but I was relieved to make an exception for this self-absorbed mess. Throughout this memoir, the author reminds us that as a writer, he hopes to mine enough material from his interaction with this clearly delusional individual to cobble together a revenue-generating piece. I'm not sure who comes across as a more pitiful aspirant here: Clark Rockefeller or Walter Kirn.